What we were expecting has come in a different form, Google has just launched the Android Wear, which dips the Mountain View company into the wearable devices market. Android Wear is a platform for smartwatches, not a piece of hardware that everyone was expecting. What the Android team is providing is an sdk and an emulator to see how notifications are going to look like.
Although we were expecting a smartwatch, produced by Google, maybe with a partnership, such as the one to build the Nexus products, Google has chosen another path. The one that seemed to be more successful in the past and even with current Google’s products, such as Android. Even in the case of Android, Google that got into the market quite late, not as an innovator, saw an opportunity, not to build another and yet similar smartphone, but a different operating system that can be used by every device.
Why? Because you can’t innovate in a market that is already overwhelmed by other products, the only thing you can do is to differentiate by building something different and focus on just that product. That’s why Google acquired Android and built the most used operating system for mobile devices, in the world. In the same way, the smartwatch market has started to become more and more active, in terms of devices released this year, and Google didn’t want to play with all the competition.
They don’t want to produce the best smartwatch in the world, they want to rule them all; which is something “slightly” different and even more effective. In the past years, we have already seen this pattern used by several different companies, the most notable one was Microsoft, which didn’t choose to go for hardware, but decided to build an operating system for every single personal computer on Earth. Although Apple was able to prove that even the opposite works, from Google’s perspective, which has been focused exclusively on software and ecosystems of tools, the first path is the big deal.
The proof of concept is already there, Google just needs to partner with those companies that has already partnered with to distribute Android and the game is over, probably for everyone. What might be interesting now to see is how a Google powered smartphone, a Nexus 5 and Google Glass can all interact together. Although Glass and smartwatches are two completely different smart devices, they share several things in common, including notifications.
Being notified three times, by your phone, Glass and your smartwatch, cause you have received a text might be slightly annoying. However, Mountain View should have already solved this problem, but the central point is that at the moment, wearables seem to be just extensions of our smartphones. There is no product that can be exclusively run on its own, without the support of the tools that smartphones already have naturally.
In the next years, the challenge will be to build completely different devices that work on their own, but interact between each other in some way; otherwise there won’t be the need to buy them all, and that’s not what these companies want. As someone might already have suspected the two major launching partners will be LG, which has built the G Watch, ready to ship in the next quarter, and Motorola, with a summer launch of its 360 Moto, that was probably already planning this, months before Google sold it.
Other companies will be following by the end of they year or in 2015, starting from those that were already in Google’s portfolio, including Asus, HTC, Samsung, Fossil and more. The game that this company is playing is terrific and the next big thing to look at is how Apple is going to reply. We all hear rumours regarding an iWatch, but who knows? They might even opt for another wearable. What we all know is that they need to get into the wearable market, no matter what.
In a couple of years, we are going to live on the internet and Apple can’t sit and watch what others are doing. The question is if a remarkable design, by Jony Ive, can still beat what Google has announced today. Android’s market penetration is outstanding, but iPhone’s sales are even more remarkable. They key is to make consumers believe that what they are using is special and they should be part of the software revolution. The innovators are already here, now it’s time to convince the early adopters that wearables are what they want.